Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Latest US News Survey of Poor Job Prospects: Whistleblowers

Whistleblowers Charge Retaliation; More Protections Sought:
By William Fisher
t r u t h o u t | Report

Career federal employees who report waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in government agencies are routinely subjected to career-ending retaliation, humiliation and legal costs - despite laws that are supposed to protect them, and repeated assurances from the White House, many government agencies and Congress that there is zero tolerance for retaliation.

These are some conclusions of public interest organizations that monitor the federal bureaucracy. They say the incidence of retaliation has increased exponentially during the administration of President George W. Bush, and they are calling on Congress to strengthen legal protections for whistleblowers.

As more than 40 public interest groups marked 'Washington Whistleblowers Week' - a weeklong gathering of whistleblowers from throughout the country in Washington, DC, to share their stories with Congress and the public - Joan Claybrook, president of the advocacy group Public Citizen, said, 'Whistleblowers are crucial to the health of democracy and need stronger protections from Congress against retaliation.'...

Science relating to public health issues has also been under severe scrutiny. Emblematic of this problem was the resignation of Dr. Susan Wood, who quit her post as assistant commissioner of women's health at the Food and Drug Administration in protest against the FDA's long delay in approving the so-called Plan B emergency contraception medication for over-the-counter sale, despite the recommendations of agency scientists and outside review panels. Dr. Wood chose to resign after repeated unsuccessful attempts to make her objections heard within the FDA.

Dr. Wood charges that federal health agencies "seem increasingly unable to operate independently, and that this lack of independence compromises their mission of promoting public health and welfare." She added, "Whether it is the environment, energy policy, science education or public health, the American public expects our government to make the best decisions, based on the best available evidence."

"Having spent 15 years working for the federal government, nearly five of which were at the FDA, I care deeply about what's happening in the federal agencies, particularly our health agencies. Nearly twenty-five cents of every consumer dollar is spent on products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. We count on the FDA for the safety and effectiveness of our medicines, vaccines and medical devices, and for the safety of the blood and food supply. The American public does not want to - nor should it - have to think twice about the quality and reliability of information it is getting from the FDA. Its reputation as the international gold standard for regulatory agencies, and as a body that sets the bar very high when it comes to scientific evidence and integrity, is being put at risk over adult access to contraception. Why would the administration risk such a reputation over this?"

Excerpted from a lengthy original report on Truthout.

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